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Addiction and Substance Abuse

Gambling addiction

05/14/2008

Question:

What would cause a person to suddenly develop a gambling addiction when they are in their 50s?

Answer:

Certain medications used to treat Parkinson's disease (such as pramipexole and ropinirole) have, as a very rare side effect, the sudden onset of gambling addiction, in a person who previously never had problems with gambling. The exact mechanism of this side effect is not clearly understood, but because these 2 medications are dopamine agonists (that is, they turn on the dopamine receptor) and because addiction is related to a dysfunction in the dopamine/reward system of the brain, researchers speculate that the gambling addiction may be triggered by too much dopamine in the brain.

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Response by:

Christina M Delos Reyes, MD Christina M Delos Reyes, MD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University